The University of Alabama’s School of Library and Information Studies (SLIS) will play a major role in an ambitious nationwide preservation effort to digitize media content. Through its partnership with the American Archive of Public Broadcasting (AAPB), SLIS will host four preservation fellowships during the fall semester. Fellows will work throughout the semester at one of three public broadcasting stations to digitize and preserve at-risk media. The stations are the Center for Public Television (CPT) at The University of Alabama, WSRE in Pensacola, Florida, and WCVE in Richmond, Virginia.
“By tapping in to the expertise of professional archivists, we are preparing our fellows for the critical work of protecting local media and ensuring that these records of our past are accessible in the future,” said Dr. Jim Elmborg, Director of SLIS. “We look forward to seeing what gems are revealed at CPT, WSRE and WCVE over the course of the semester.”
According to AAPB, a collaboration between the Library of Congress and WGBH, a Boston-area public media broadcaster, the work the fellows complete will be incorporated into the AAPB database at the end of the semester.
“Public media stations have created community-focused, enriching programs for decades. Each of these programs is a unique snapshot that reflects what mattered to communities at a given time and is a rich historical resource for stations, scholars and the public,” said Karen Cariani, Director of WGBH’s Media Library and Archives. “We’re thrilled to help guide the next generation of archivists and for AAPB to serve as a home for these programs from CPT, WSRE and WCVE.”
Fellows will begin the program with an immersive training hosted by SLIS, led by WGBH Media Library and Archives staff and Jackie Jay, a digitization expert from Bay Area Video Coalition, from August 5-8. At the host stations, fellows will work with station staff to identify programs that are most valuable to the station and currently residing on at-risk and obsolete videotape formats. According to AAPB, each fellow will catalog and digitize up to 60 hours of this content. Fellows will be supported by AAPB archivists and funding from SLIS.
The School of Library and Information Studies is a part of the College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS) at The University of Alabama. To learn more about C&IS, visit www.cis.ua.edu.
At approximately 2 p.m. on March 3, 2019, an F-4 tornado killed 23 people in Lee county, Alabama before continuing on into southwest Georgia. As one of the 12 tornadoes which touched down in central and southeast Alabama that day, it would become the deadliest tornado in the country since April 2011.
[Click here to view Dr. Clark’s latest project, Disaster Reporting Beauregard]
Before the week was over, Drs. Chandra Clark and Michael Bruce (Department of Journalism and Creative Media) were on the ground in Beauregard, Alabama interviewing first responders, reporters, and other news crew team members as they held news conferences, interviewed tornado victims and reported from the disaster zone. Clark and Bruce gathered additional video footage from various television stations in Alabama and Georgia including news coverage from that day and weather forecasts leading up to the tornado outbreak.
Clark compiled the videos and edited them together as a tool which can be used in the classroom to help illustrate the teamwork required in covering major weather events. The process starts with the meteorologists’ warnings and the decisions management makes to break into normal programming to alert the audience to the threat of disaster and carries on through producers, anchors, and reporters who manage the live reports and push notifications on social media as the situation unfolds. The completed video (found here) helps students understand the role of reporters in the field when covering disasters.
“It’s only through a one-on-one internship with a reporter covering a disaster or a major breaking news story that students can learn and apply how to multitask communication with managers, producers, promotions and social media teams while they are gathering content to produce for a packaged or live report,” said Clark. “We hope this video helps students have a better understanding of the reporters’ role in the field covering disasters from the reporters and videographers who do it daily.”
Clark’s reputation as an educator and one of the producers of the “First Informers” video series helped in communication with news directors in negotiating footage from their station. The “First Informers” video series has worked in conjunction with the National Association of Broadcasters and the Broadcast Education Association to document local broadcasting in several notable severe storm events over the past 8 years. These documentaries include the 2011 EF4 tornado in Tuscaloosa, the 2011 EF5 tornado in Joplin, the 2012 hurricane known as “Superstorm Sandy,” a 2013 EF5 tornado which struck Moore, Oklahoma, Hurricanes Harvey and Irma in 2017 and Hurricanes Florence and Michael in 2018.
How a Student-Produced Film is Changing Public Perception
Juvenile idiopathic arthritis is a debilitating disease affecting thousands of children across the country. Telecommunication and film student, Joshua Cohen, is using his film, “M I A” to raise awareness about JIA and cast a light on this invisible disease.
Filmmaking has an incredible ability to change the sentiments surrounding a topic. The picture, lighting and audio affect the senses, bringing audiences to a place they have not been and compelling them to consider perspectives and experiences that, to them, are foreign and unexplored. Senior telecommunication and film major from Atlanta, Georgia, Joshua Cohen, understands the power of film to move people and sway public thought. He wants to use his film, “M I A,” to change the world.
“M I A” tells the story of a young girl named Mia, who is navigating life with a painful and debilitating disease: juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA). As the film describes, juvenile arthritis is an umbrella term for a number of childhood diseases affecting the joints and musculoskeletal system. JIA specifically includes symptoms such as muscle and soft tissue tightening, bone erosion, joint misalignment and changes in growth patterns. To make matters worse, children suffering from JIA are often overlooked or marginalized. That’s why Cohen titled his film, “M I A,” as in “missing in action,” a play on the character’s name and her social standing.
As a story, “M I A” is deeply personal to Cohen. More than one member of his family has been diagnosed with diseases in the arthritis family. Although in retrospect Cohen’s mom has been battling a disease similar to Mia for most of her life, the disease became challenging and life altering about 15 years ago, forcing her to undergo numerous, regular chemotherapy treatments and surgeries. Cohen witnessed the disease attack his mother’s body first-hand, which served as personal motivation to tell Mia’s story and use it as a vehicle for awareness and change.
“I really wanted to get the story out there because there’s not enough awareness about this disease,” said Cohen. “When I asked my film crew what they thought arthritis was, they thought it was when people had difficulty texting with their thumbs and having stiff joints. That’s understandable, but it can also be life threatening and life altering.”
In the film, Mia’s physical limitations isolate her from her peers and force her to miss out on many of the activities other children can easily enjoy. Mia’s story captures her good and bad days, her frustration with routine doctor visits and injections, the emotional toll shared by her family and, ultimately, her motivation to move beyond her diagnosis and present herself in her own way.
“The film shows what it’s like to live with this disease from Mia’s point of view,” said Cohen. “It shows what Mia can and can’t do. At the beginning, she lets this disease limit her, but by the end of the film, it doesn’t define her anymore.”
Because the disease is rare and hard to diagnose, increased awareness amplifies the importance of funding and research to treat and improve the quality of life for those who suffer from JIA. It would also help those who suffer to better understand their symptoms and seek appropriate help from a physician. These are just a few of the ways Cohen wants “M I A” to make a lasting impact.
Making “M I A”
For students enrolled in JCM 437: Scene Directing, the script is the starting point. Students come to the class with a script ready to workshop and revise. The editing process exposes weaknesses while strengthening attributes in the plot, dialogue and character profiles.
Above: Behind-the-scenes photos of the “M I A” production crew which included C&IS students Wynter Childers, Joshua Cohen, Malcolm Driscoll, Lydia Eichler, Megan Farrell, Sam Gay, Tristan Hallman, Rhianna Israni, Wade Scanlan and Sam Sheriff.
“I knew Joshua had a really good story to tell,” said Maya Champion, Cohen’s instructor for JCM 437. “In this class, these films are usually the first films students produce, and they’re meant to be stepping stones for a career.”
For the writer, director and production team, JCM 437 provides students an opportunity to create stories in a variety of different roles as part of a film crew. When Cohen selected his crew, he found his director of photography in C&IS senior Rhianna Israni of Lakeville, Minn. While Cohen directed the actors and drew out their emotions in the scenes, Israni was lining up the shot, mapping out camera movements and adjusting the lighting.
“Every film you work on improves your skills,” said Israni. “You learn a lot from getting new experiences. This was the first time I ever shot under water. It was a lot more difficult than I thought it would be, but it turned out really cool.”
Before filming even one scene, the team ensured that they meticulously mapped out every second of filming down to the last minute. With every shot scheduled back to back, moving from location to location, the crew remarkably wrapped up filming for the entire project in just two days. To pull this off, the entire team had to know exactly where to be and what to do in every step of the production.
“With script writing and everything else, the process lasts a whole semester,” said Cohen. “So, it’s rare to get everything done in two days and not have any pick-up shots.”
The student team was modeled after a professional production crew in the film industry. As director, Cohen tasked his peers with responsibilities in various categories: lighting, production design and sound, to name a few. Cohen and Israni worked tirelessly together, shoulder to shoulder, to produce one final video.
“We watched through all the shots and talked. It was a collaboration,” said Israni. “He’d like some shots because of the acting, and I would make a case sometimes for a different shot because the camera had a smoother angle.”
As Cohen’s instructor, Champion is proud of the way the film artistically tells Mia’s story. But for Cohen, the project was much more, and his aspirations fly high beyond his final grade. In the end, he wants to have changed public perception.
Using a Film to Raise Awareness
Twelve-year-old Lily Champion is like many kids her age. Her favorite animal is a shark, and she can’t decide if she wants to be an actress, a marine biologist, a journalist or some variation of all three. Diagnosed with JIA at a young age, in many ways, Mia’s story is Lily’s story—sitting on the bench while her friends at school play during recess, feeling marginalized and ignored. She has lived the experiences Cohen’s film captures, and her struggles equipped her to play it out on screen.
“When we first told Lily about the story, she wanted to be in it,” said Cohen. “Then when we showed her the script, she read through it and said, ‘Wow. I did all these things. I had these symptoms.’”
Films showcasing actors and actresses with disabilities are rare; rarer still are films whose actors and actresses portray their own disability on the screen. Casting Lily to play Mia and telling her story alongside the film gives JIA a young, relatable face, personalizing the experience in such a way that audiences feel Mia’s struggles and are motivated to be agents of awareness and change themselves.
The awareness efforts for JIA are limited when compared to other, more widespread diseases. Cohen is using “M I A” to rewrite the script on this disease. In a tangible sense, this dream of Cohen’s is already a reality. His film already screened at Camp M.A.S.H. (Make Arthritis Stop Hurting), a camp run by Children’s Hospital of Alabama. Now, Cohen wants to extend his reach even further by permitting physicians to screen the film in their offices and submitting the film to various film festivals across the country.
“Once you put it on the festival circuit, you can attract attention from people who want to develop it into a feature script,” said Champion. “Then Josh can use his student film as a stepping stone to something bigger.”
Bringing “M I A” to a larger audience would mean pivotal conversations are taking place about the perception of and treatment for JIA. “M I A” gives a voice to young people all over the country who exist in a daily struggle with a seemingly invisible disease. More than that, “M I A” gives them confidence that their disease does not have to define and rule over their circumstances.
From the first day of JCM 437, Cohen’s dream has been to use his gifts as a director and filmmaker to make a difference in the lives of children like Mia. With the passion Cohen brings from his personal experiences and the hard work of the student film crew, “M I A” has unlimited potential to change the conversation, and for film students like Cohen, these educational experiences are invaluable.
The first study to examine the state of public relations in Canada and the United States found that building and maintaining trust is the most crucial issue facing the profession. The North American Communication Monitor (NACM) conducted by The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations at The University of Alabama disclosed key trends and challenges facing the communication profession. Some highlights include:
Fake news affects the profession, but many organizations are not prepared to identify and manage it.
Top communication leaders are involved in organizational decision making, but that power is not shared with those lower in the hierarchy, especially women.
The major threat to job engagement is a lack of performance feedback and recognition, with a significant gender gap.
Everyone is stressed, but the sources of work stress vary.
Women and men rate their social media and knowledge management skills differently.
The results are based on responses from 1,020 communication professionals working in different types of organizations (255 in Canada and 765 in the United States). The sample achieved a balanced gender split (50% men and 50% women) for accurate comparisons. The average age of participants was 46.0 years.
Dr. Karla Gower, director of The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations, said, “Our goal with this study was to assess the state of the public relations field in North America and identify gaps, or opportunities to enrich the development of communication leaders. If we know where the gaps are, we can work to close them and to strengthen the overall quality of our profession’s leadership—a crucial strategic asset.”
The study, which joins existing Communication Monitors in Europe, Latin America and Asia-Pacific, explored diverse topics, including fake news and strategies to deal with it, top issues for the profession in the next three years, the role of providing information to support decision making, leaders’ performance, and professionals’ job engagement, trust in their organization, job satisfaction, work stress, and social media skills and management knowledge.
Dr. Bryan H. Reber, professor at the University of Georgia and lead researcher of NACM, said: “The Plank Center has embraced the opportunity to join a truly global network of researchers who regularly take the pulse of communication professionals to identify trends and opportunities. The North American Communication Monitor provides statistically reliable data to demonstrate professionals’ opinions and concerns and uses a nearly identical survey instrument as do the European, Latin American, and Asia-Pacific Communication Monitors. As a result, we are able to compare more than 6,000 responses across regions and cultures, the largest global data set for our profession.”
Fake news is a prominent issue but organizations lack processes to identify and manage it
Communication professionals agree fake news has become one of the most prominent issues in public discourse. More than half of surveyed professionals (57.7%) give attention to the on-going debate about fake news and consider it a much-debated topic in their country (68.2%). Results indicate governmental organizations across North America are particularly affected by fake news, with 20.9% being affected multiple times and 10.1% being affected once.
However, despite the high levels of awareness and attention to the debate about fake news, the level of relevance of fake news to the professionals’ daily work, and their concerns about it, are generally low. When it comes to identifying potential fake news, a substantial percentage of respondents (42.6%) said their organizations mainly rely on individual competencies and experience. Few organizations have in place policies, technical systems and processes to detect and manage fake news and misinformation.
Nearly half of the organizations (46.3%) do not share decision making with employees or members
The majority of surveyed professionals (71.9%) agree their top communication leader is actively involved in the organization’s decision making (78.1%) and demonstrates a strong ethical orientation to guide actions (76.7%). However, shared decision-making power receives the lowest rating across various types of organizations. Women rate the shared decision-making power significantly lower than men. A similar perceptual gap is identified along the line of hierarchy: Top communication leaders rate shared decision-making power significantly higher than team leaders and team members.
The major threat to job engagement is a lack of performance feedback and recognition, with a significant gender gap
The job engagement level is relatively high: 62.8% report they are engaged in their job. More than eight in 10 of surveyed professionals know what is expected of them at work (86.0%), and are in a positive environment where fellow employees are committed to quality work (81.3%). Professionals also said they have the opportunity to do what they can do best every day (79.1%) and their opinions count at work (75.3%). However, some are frustrated by the lack of feedback about their performance on the job (24.6%) and lack of recognition for doing good work (15.4%).
Though nearly three-quarters of communication professionals are satisfied with their job, the gender gap is big. Women (60.8%) report a much lower level of job satisfaction compared to men (70.2%).
Sources of work stress vary
One-third of surveyed professionals acknowledge they feel tense and stressed during a normal workday. Generally, the top three sources of stress are limited growth or advancement opportunities (34.3%), a too-heavy workload (33.6%), and information overload (33.3%). Top communication leaders are most stressed by information overload, team leaders by work overload, and team members by their lack of opportunity for growth and advancement. Women are most stressed by lack of advancement opportunities and heavy workload. Men are most stressed by information overload and being constantly available via email, text and phone.
Women and men rate their social media and knowledge management skills differently
Men and women see their knowledge and skill sets differently when coping with the digital evolution and social media. Women are more confident about delivering messages via social media (68.8%), identifying social media trends (55.7%), and setting up social media platforms (51.2%). Men are more confident of their understanding of the legal framework for social media (38.0%) and using algorithms to run analytics (35.7%).
When it comes to general management skills, men are significantly more confident, compared to women, about their abilities in strategic positioning, such as analyzing overall organizational goals, scenario planning, and linking communication to business agendas. Men also report higher scores on managing human and financial resources.
Dr. Juan Meng, associate professor at the University of Georgia and lead analyst of NACM, said: “The depths and the variety of investigated topics presented by this year’s NACM help us better understand the communication industry in North America. More importantly, our rich results will deliver crucial insights to inform effective practice for communication professionals at all levels, from top leaders to team leaders and team members, as they all need to tackle these challenges now or in the near future.”
About North American Communication Monitor 2018-2019
The North American Communication Monitor (NACM) 2018-2019 is a biennial study organized and sponsored by The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations. The NACM is part of the Global Communication Monitor series. As the largest regular global study in the field of public relations and strategic communication, the Global Communication Monitor series aims at stimulating and promoting the knowledge and practice of strategic communication and communication management globally. The series covers more than 80 countries with similar surveys conducted in Asia-Pacific, Europe and Latin America.
About the Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations
The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations is the leading international resource working to support students, educators and practitioners who are passionate about the public relations profession by developing and recognizing outstanding diverse public relations leaders, role models and mentors. Founded in 2005, the Center is named in honor of Betsy Plank, the “First Lady” of PR. Betsy’s legacy and vision continues on in the Center’s programs and initiatives to advance the profession and public relations education. For more information, please visit www.plankcenter.ua.edu.
Results of the NACM 2018-2019 will be published as a PDF report and as a booklet:
Meng, J. Reber, B. H., Berger, B. K., Gower, K. K., & Zerfass, A. (2019). North American Communication Monitor 2018-2019. Tracking trends in fake news, issues management, leadership performance, work stress, social media skills, job satisfaction and work environment. Tuscaloosa, AL: The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations.
“I’m thankful for this unique opportunity to use the communication skills I’ve learned at UA to help Black Warrior Riverkeeper protect residents and wildlife all over the Black Warrior River’s 17-county watershed. As an out of state student, it’s important to me that I give back to a community that has made me feel at home during my time at UA,” Nuckolls said.
As a member of Waterkeeper Alliance, Black Warrior Riverkeeper patrols waterways, responds to citizen complaints, enforces environmental laws, and educates the public. The organization also engages partner groups and individuals in its efforts. Last year, 485 volunteers donated 4,710 hours of community service through Black Warrior Riverkeeper’s projects. The majority of those volunteers were students from The University of Alabama.
“We strive to make the Munson internship an exciting, valuable and well-rounded experience for the intern each summer,” said Charles Scribner, executive director of Black Warrior Riverkeeper. “At the same time, we benefit tremendously from new communications tactics we learn from the nationally-ranked UA PR program’s top students.”
Black Warrior Riverkeeper’s mission is to protect and restore the Black Warrior River and its tributaries. The citizen-based nonprofit organization promotes clean water for the sake of public health, recreation and wildlife habitat throughout the Black Warrior River watershed.
University of Alabama Communications & Information Sciences Hall of Famer Rece Davis, host of ESPN College GameDay Built by Home Depot, was recently honored with two awards at the 2019 College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) Convention in Orlando, Florida.
Davis was surprised with the Lester Jordan Award during this year’s Google Cloud Academic All-America Hall of Fame Dinner. The annual award is presented to those who show exemplary service to the Academic All-America Award program, an awards program which highlights the top student-athletes in the nation for both the academic and athletic performances from the junior college to NCAA Division I levels.
“I was honored and surprised when I was presented with the Lester Jordan Award. I had no idea that was in the works,” Davis said. “It’s always nice to have your work be honored. It is an esteemed list of people who have previously won the award. It’s a compliment to be included in that type of company. It was more special to me to have the award presented by my friend, Bernie Cafarelli. We have a great relationship. She’s a true professional who has been great to me over the years. It was cool to have her be the one to do the presentation and the interview, but I’ll get her back for that surprise. She and Jim Seavey totally duped me.”
Beginning his career as a student-broadcaster in the late 1980s at the University of Alabama, Davis says he’s been “keenly aware of the tremendous partnership between those of us in the media and SID staffs.” He has been involved in CoSIDA since 2011 as emcee of the Academic All-America Hall of Fame banquet. What began as a corporate sponsorship agreement with ESPN continued on at the urging of the late Dick Enberg, who previously served as emcee for the banquet.
“Sometimes the goals are in conflict, but I have a high regard for the SIDs that I work with regularly and we know if there’s a difference in goal or opinion it will be resolved professionally. Other than coaches and staff, no one spends more time with players or gets to know them better than the SID. Few spend more time with the coaches than the SID. They can help us discover the stories that need to be told and the ones that we want to be part of College Gameday. I’m happy to be a part of a program that’s so important to the bigger scope of college athletics,” Davis said.
In addition to the Lester Jordan Award, Davis was honored among his College GameDay colleagues with the 2019 Keith Jackson Eternal Flame Award
“Anytime you get an award bearing Keith Jackson’s name it’s gratifying. Keith was synonymous with college football. He was a part of the fabric of the sport. He was the one who connected fans with the game during his era. We strive to show that same pure, authentic love for the sport on College Gameday and have that same relationship with the fans. We were honored to receive the award,” said Davis, who was joined by Lee Corso and producers for the ceremony.
This is not the first time CoSIDA has honored its longtime friend. Davis was also presented the 2017 Jake Wade Award, presented to “an individual who has made an outstanding contribution in the media to the field of intercollegiate athletics.”
Davis, a 1988 graduate of the University of Alabama and native of Muscle Shoals, Alabama, joined ESPN in 1995 and served as the primary studio host for ESPN and ESPN2’s coverage of college football and college basketball. He was named host of College GameDay in 2017. Davis was named the University of Alabama School of Communication Broadcast Department’s outstanding alumnus for 2001. He was inducted into the university’s Communication & Information Sciences Hall of Fame in 2018.
CoSIDA is comprised of more than 3,000 intercollegiate athletic communications and media relations professionals from colleges, universities and athletic conferences at all divisions of competition in the United States and Canada.
The University of Alabama College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS) has announced Dr. Damion Waymer as the Department Chair for Advertising and Public Relations (APR). Waymer joins the APR faculty as former chair Dr. Joe Phelps returns to full-time faculty. In addition to his duties as Department Chair, Waymer has also been appointed as a tenured professor for APR.
“I am excited to be joining the award-winning and highly regarded Department of Advertising and Public Relations at The University of Alabama,” said Waymer. “I only hope to build positively on the very strong foundation that has been established by my predecessors, current faculty and staff and decanal leadership.”
Most recently, Waymer served as the department chair for liberal studies at North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University. Waymer received his Bachelor of Arts in corporate communication with a minor in business administration from the College of Charleston in 2000 and his Master of Arts and Ph.D. in communication in 2003 and 2006, respectively, both from Purdue University. Waymer has written three books and been published in more than 30 scholarly articles about communication and public relations, including four articles published with APR associate professor Dr. Kenon Brown.
“Our Advertising and Public Relations department is one of the best in the country, and Dr. Waymer will only help us to improve,” said Dr. Mark Nelson, Dean of C&IS. “Given Dr. Waymer’s research profile and experience, our students and faculty will be very fortunate to work with and learn from him.”
The University of Alabama Department of Advertising and Public Relations is one of the top programs of its kind, regularly ranked in the top five nationally. With both bachelor’s and master’s degrees available, the APR department is a place for students who share a passion for advertising and public relations and who want to set themselves up for professional success.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Three alumni of the College of Communication and Information Sciences’ School of Library and Information Studies (SLIS) have been named as 2019 Emerging Leaders of the American Library Association (ALA). Hannah Bowser (2017), a virtual services librarian in Wilmington, NC, Jina DuVernay (2017), a visiting archivist for African-American collections at Emory University, and Sabrina Dyck (2013), who currently works at Lawson State Community College in Birmingham, Ala., joined 46 other library and information professionals as participants of the class.
“This year’s class joins a distinguished group of alumni, many of whom continue to make significant contributions to ALA,” said Audrey Barbakoff and Pauline Stacchini, co-chairs of the Emerging Leaders program.
According to ALA, the Emerging Leaders program participates in an online and networking environment, culminating in a poster session at the ALA 2019 Annual Conference in Washington, D.C., from June 20-25.
“To have three SLIS alumni chosen among a national class of 50 is a huge accomplishment and speaks to the success of the Master’s of Library and Information Studies Program,” said Jim Elmborg, Ph.D., director of SLIS.
SLIS is a top-ranked program for library, information and book arts education. SLIS aims to develop creative and critical thinkers and leaders for the information world through a supportive teaching and learning environment, collaborative research and community engagement.
Industry Immersion Develops Professional Confidence in Undergraduate Students
Anxious. Nervous. Excited. This is how Emma Adcock of Nashville felt two years ago when her parents dropped
her off at the airport, bound for a Washington, D.C. Industry Immersion trip. Months before, she had been so nervous that she backed out of an interview entirely, removing herself from consideration for a similar trip to New York City. Yet somehow, she mustered up the courage for this trip and followed through. So, with her suitcase in her hand and her heart in her throat, she stepped onto the plane.
“It’s a very daunting thing,” Emma said. “I didn’t feel like I was put together enough to be on the trip. I just didn’t
feel like I was enough.”
As it has been for hundreds of C&IS students, stepping onto that plane would launch a pivotal transition for Emma to develop professional confidence and build essential, personal skills to help her excel in an industry setting. The Industry Immersion program at C&IS is a professional development opportunity for University of Alabama students to travel to leading job markets, explore various industry settings and engage with experienced alumni and industry professionals.
The program places motivated undergraduates in the middle of board rooms in the heart of some of the country’s most dynamic cities, swapping business cards with its top talent. Trips include tours of agencies and organizations, coaching in professional development and Q&A time with industry tycoons. Like Emma, not every student is ready to step right into a career in that environment—few students are. So, the Industry Immersion student leadership team prepares them by developing itineraries that introduce participants
to company cultures, city life and a variety of roles.
“Once students are accepted for a trip, we work with them to make sure that they’re ready,” said Ellora Lalla, the director of professional development on the Industry Immersion student leadership team. “We coach them on how to act in professional settings, ask strategic questions, tailor their resumes, professionalize their social media and craft their elevator pitches.”
The result? Students march into well-known, global companies such as Disney, Ketchum, Edelman, Google and Time, Inc., with poise and determination. By the trip’s end, students have a pile of business cards, traction for their career and a supercharged mission upon returning to campus. Some students have even landed jobs and internships on the spot.
“After Industry Immersion trips, every student has a story,” said Dr. Litsa Rivers, Director of Experiential Learning and Outreach at C&IS. “The stories aren’t all the same, but they all include an element of self-discovery, either defining exactly what they want their career to be or learning that they should pursue a different path. Both are equally valuable.”
Industry Immersion participants visit with C&IS alumni such as Graham Flanagan
at Business Insider and Mary Buzbee at Lewis Communications.
These trips serve to complement the educational process. Students who are actively learning about the full spectrum of communication in their courses are transported beyond the university setting to witness the environment firsthand. The textbook skills and fundamentals take on a new and deeper meaning as they see it, feel it, reflect on it and experience it with their peers.
As a C&IS Board of Visitors member and longtime advocate and host of Industry Immersion, Lindsay Garrison believes in the value of this transformative student experience. As proof of her dedication, Garrison spearheaded a Board of Visitors endowment of $100,000 to help create more opportunities for all C&IS students to participate through scholarships.
“The benefits of Industry Immersion go well beyond networking. They help students truly envision their careers
in the rapidly evolving field of communication,” said Garrison, senior vice president at Edelman. “Meeting with alumni in their work environment gives students invaluable context to what they’re learning in the classroom.”
For each trip, the eight members of the Industry Immersion student leadership team craft a unique experience for the participants, including a thorough orientation to the city and a detailed outline of the companies they visit. The participants who engage in the meetings, strive to make connections and follow up with them after the program tend to see opportunities open up in their search for internships and jobs. At the very least, their confidence and competence equip them to pursue those opportunities on their own.
Two years after that first plane ride, Emma now serves as the current president of the Industry Immersion student leadership team. She admits she still gets butterflies in her stomach as she steps into those high-profile meetings with industry superstars. But overall, her experience with Industry Immersion has been transformative.
“I’ve gained so much from being involved in Industry Immersion,” Emma said. “I have a newfound confidence going into meetings, my resume and elevator pitch are stronger, and I feel very capable asking critical questions
and interacting with professionals.”
It’s easy to see Industry Immersion participants walking the halls at some of the nation’s most impressive companies and imagine what’s next. Years from now, students like Emma Adcock will welcome a new generation of University of Alabama up-and-comers into their board rooms and be a part of the process that introduces these students to the kind of careers their future holds.
Seven-part serialized investigative podcast, hosted by native Alabamians Chip Brantley and Andrew Beck Grace, available May 14.
Tuesday, May 7, 2019; Washington D.C. — In 1965, Reverend James Reeb — a Unitarian minister and civil-rights activist — was killed during the voting rights movement in Selma. After three men were tried and acquitted for his murder, the city’s white community buried the truth. More than 50 years later, two native Alabamians return to Selma to uncover the truth about who killed James Reeb, and to delve into the systems of oppression and violence that allowed it to happen.
In White Lies, a narrative podcast available May 14, co-hosts Andrew Beck Grace and Chip Brantley expose the lies that kept the murder from being solved and uncover a story about guilt, memory, and justice that says as much about America today as it does about the past. In a place where a legacy of impunity and silence conspires against them, Brantley and Grace scour Selma for living witnesses, guided by an unredacted copy of an old FBI file. They meet people who know the truth about the murder but have lied for decades — until now.
“Working with the NPR investigative team, Chip and Andy’s reporting answers questions about James Reeb’s death that have lingered for over half a century,” said Anya Grundmann, SVP of Programming and Audience Development. “This is a deeply told story about a piece of our history that contains hard and unexpected truths that still reverberate today.”
Hear a trailer now on Apple Podcasts, NPR One, Pocket Casts, or wherever podcasts are available. New episodes of White Lies will publish each Tuesday for the next seven weeks.
“The story of Jim Reeb’s murder occupies a strange place in our country’s history,” said Andrew Beck Grace. “As we reported this story and discovered the lies that had been crafted to hide the truth about his murder, we saw a chance to correct this narrative. And as white southerners, we felt we had a responsibility to do that.”
“We set out to make a dynamic and responsible piece of crime reporting, and it’s been a dream to have the support of NPR’s investigative team,” said Chip Brantley.
Chip Brantley is the author of The Perfect Fruit (Bloomsbury), and his work has appeared in Slate, the Oxford American, and The New York Times, among others. A senior lecturer in journalism at the University of Alabama, Brantley is a former director of TV development for Dogstar Films and the creative producer of Whitman, Alabama, an experimental documentary that was a 2018 Emmy finalist in the New Approaches in Documentary category. Brantley lives in Birmingham.
Andrew Beck Grace is nonfiction filmmaker whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, NPR, and PBS’s Independent Lens. His award-winning film Eating Alabama premiered at SXSW, aired nationally on PBS, and was awarded Best Documentary by the James Beard Foundation. Grace’s interactive documentary, After the Storm, was a co-production of PBS’s Independent Lens and The Washington Post. It has been exhibited internationally and was nominated for an Emmy in New Approaches to Documentary. Grace teaches nonfiction filmmaking and journalism at the University of Alabama.
NPR podcasts receive 31.8 million weekly downloads across all shows (Source: Splunk, NPR Podcast Logs). According to the Podtrac industry ranker, NPR is the leading publisher of podcasts.
Chip Brantley and Andrew Beck Grace are faculty members in the Department of Journalism and Creative Media, housed in the College of Communication and Information Sciences at The University of Alabama. To learn more about C&IS, visit cis.ua.edu/.